Next up in our ‘5 minutes with…’ series is one of our Audit Managers, Eric McQuillan
Eric McQuillan is an audit manager at UHY Farrelly Dawe White (FDW). He has worked at the company for over 20 years and has held a variety of roles in different branches. Eric is currently based in UHY FDW’s Balbriggan office. Eric exudes a positive attitude and believes it’s important to be “open to change” and develop good relationships with clients and co-workers. Outside of work, Eric is a keen cyclist and is fond of animals.
Tell us about your career path to date.
I attended Ardee Community School in Co Louth. When I finished my Leaving Certificate, I decided to embark on a career in accountancy and get a professional qualification. I did some research and enrolled in a course run by Accounting Technicians Ireland at The Drogheda Institute of Further Education. The first few months were difficult as I was one of a small number of people with no prior education in bookkeeping and accountancy. Even though I hadn’t studied these subjects at secondary school, I soon developed a flair for it and progressed rapidly.
In February 1995, I saw an advert in a local newspaper for a trainee accountant position at Farrelly Dawe White & Associates, an auditing and accountancy firm in Dundalk. At the time, FDW was operating out of River Lane and had three partners, Alan Farrelly, the late Kevin Dawe, and Eamonn White (who has since retired). Kevin and Eamonn interviewed me; they must have seen something special in me as I got a phone call a few days later with a job offer. I started working for FDW, continued to study, passed my exams, and became a member of Accounting Technicians Ireland. The partners at the time encouraged me to take my studies further so I enrolled with CPA Ireland and I’ve never looked back. I was primarily based in River Lane, however, when FDW acquired a practice in Swords, Co Dublin, I agreed to spend a day a week at the Swords office.
I enjoyed my time with FDW but in September 1996 I was approached by a partner at another accountancy firm based in Drogheda, now known as Doyle Kelly & Co. I decided to accept the job offer from Doyle Kelly & Co, in order to get a feel for how different accounting practices work and broaden my experience. I enjoyed my time at that firm too and made a lot of friends there. Then in November 1998, completely out of the blue, Kevin Dawe called and told me that FDW was opening a practice in Dublin City Centre. He asked if I’d be interested in talking with him and I was, as my studies with CPA Ireland were based in Griffith College Dublin, and I was finding the commute tiring. I met with Kevin, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the past 20 years working with FDW, I’ve progressed from being an accounts junior to audit senior. In September 2001, I was admitted as a member of CPA Ireland and in July 2007, I was appointed to my current role as audit manager.
Are you where you expected to be in your career?
Yes, it has been a natural progression for me since the first day I walked through the doors of FDW back in February 1995 as an accounts junior. Over the years, I have built up a vast amount of knowledge and experience in dealing with a whole myriad of clients, ranging from sole traders to multi-national companies. I’ve been fortunate, as I haven’t been pigeonholed into one area of expertise. I’ve a broad range of knowledge across many areas including audit, accounts, taxation and company secretarial. My role has become even more interesting since our firm became a member of UHY International, a network of independent accounting and consulting firms across more than 95 countries. We are now on the global scene, which presents new challenges and opportunities. The business and economic world has now become an even smaller place.
What’s the best career advice you received?
“Know your client”. The key to providing the best service possible is to really know and understand your client. Build up a positive working relationship with your client; know their goals, aspirations, understand their challenges and celebrate their successes. Find out what their end game is, do they even have one? In addition, you really need to understand the business sector that your client operates in. There are so many regulatory and compliance obligations that must be met regardless of what sector your client is in and you need to be on top of those. It’s only when you truly understand your client, you can bring something new to the table, some “added value”.
Based on your own experience, what are your top career tips?
Always be open to change. Set yourself goals and stick to them! Having dreams in life is fine, but if you don’t set yourself goals for achieving those dreams, you’ll never get there.
Keep training and re-educating yourself, even in areas outside of your normal scope. Learn and develop new skills. Don’t be a “one trick pony”. Keep your mind stimulated! Understand your company’s core values and promote them at every given opportunity. Don’t be afraid to fail; if you do, don’t dwell on the situation, learn from it and move on. Look for the good in people, build relationships and network.
How would you define your work style, and how has this evolved over the years?
I’m very positive and this is something I encourage in the team members I work with on a daily basis. I’m diligent and I like to try different approaches to jobs. I enjoy interacting with clients on a personal level and I’m always conscious of spotting new opportunities for the benefit of our clients. I’m a proactive person and I always have the mind-set of promoting our company’s services, and more importantly, our people. I consider myself a level-headed person and I don’t tend to let work pressures get the better of me.
In terms of managing teams and individuals, what are your insights?
I’m a people person, a good listener, very approachable, and always on hand to assist and develop the individuals within our organisation. It’s vital that you regularly engage with team members. Ascertain what their goals are from the outset, assist them with their development so they can reach those goals, and give and welcome feedback. Know and understand people’s strengths and weaknesses, and build on them. Over the years working with FDW, I’ve been fortunate to learn from and work with great people, and this all stems from having a good positive attitude.
Teamwork has always come easily to me. I probably learned this from an early age during my rugby days with Ardee RFC. During your working life, most situations will go to plan, but there will be times when things don’t go so well, and that’s when teamwork really comes into play. Team members with the right frame of mind will provide assistance, encouragement and support to get you over difficult situations. This should never be underestimated.
At every opportunity, seek to surround yourself with positive, like-minded people. Positive people will challenge you and take you in directions that you never thought were possible.
What about communication and negotiating the typical ups and downs of working life?
Technology has moved on so much since I began my accountancy career. I started off with pen and paper, progressed to excel and integrated accounting software, internet/email, and recently, cloud-based computing, which has totally revolutionised how we do things. These are all useful tools to assist us in how we accumulate, assimilate and record data, but it must be remembered that they are just tools. Our business is very people orientated, so there will always be face-to-face interaction with our clients, which I feel is more important at the end of the day. I could learn more about a business from a five-minute meeting with a business owner, than I would if I spent an hour poring over reams of financial data.
Has networking played an important part in your career?
Starting out, networking was never a factor in my career. However, some years ago Richard Berney introduced me to the importance and benefits of networking. I’ve represented FDW on many occasions with BNI, which is a business referral organisation in Ireland. During BNI meetings, like-minded local business people meet face-to-face to promote their businesses, meet new clients, and of course, refer business. It took me a couple of meetings to really understand what was going on, and what networking is all about, but now I can confidently say, “I get it”. I also attend a number of events and seminars run by the Balbriggan Chamber of Commerce, which give great insight into what’s happening in the local business area. The power of a business referral or lead should never be underestimated as that one referral, no matter how small—if acted upon—could be the gateway to bigger and better things.
If you had to choose another career tomorrow, what would it be and why?
I’d have liked to be involved—in one form or another—in the charity sector. Perhaps caring for animals, particularly dogs. Maybe a position in Dogs Trust Ireland. A close second is to have been a professional cyclist. It’s a hobby and passion I developed a number of years ago, purely by accident. I’ve been involved in many charity cycles across the length and breadth of the country including the Ring of Kerry. In recent years, I’ve been cycling in the Netherlands as my brother lives in Eindhoven.